Detroit — JaCoby Jones set the table for the Tigers’ ninth-inning, walk-off win over the Mariners Sunday and Jose Iglesias struck the hero shot.
But it was a grinding, eight-pitch battle between Mariners’ right-hander Juan Nicasio and left-handed hitting Niko Goodrum that facilitated the whole shebang.
“That was a great at-bat,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
It may have been a few pitches short of epic, but it was a beauty. Nicasio is 31 and was facing his 2,812th big-league batter. Goodrum is 26 and was making his 91st big-league plate appearance. It was the first time the two had faced each other, at least in the big leagues.
And, oh by the way, it was a 4-4 game in the bottom of the ninth and the Tigers had blown a two-run lead in the top of the eighth.
Nicasio must’ve felt like Goodrum couldn’t catch up to his fastball. He threw him five straight four-seamers to start the at-bat, ranging in velocity from 92.6 mph to 94.5 mph. Goodrum swung late and missed on a 1-0 fastball, then fouled off another at 93 mph — and he was quickly down in the count 1-2.
“With two strikes, you are battling,” Goodrum said. “It’s a dogfight between you and him. You are trying to cover the entire plate and the different speeds. On some of those heaters, it maybe looked like I was late, but I felt I was right on them.
“But I was just competing at that point.”
Meanwhile, Jones was running on every other pitch, trying to steal second base. Goodrum was completely unaware of that.
“Was he?” Goodrum said. “I’m not even worried about that. With two strikes, all I’m trying to do is compete.”
Nicasio threw him two more four-seamers, one at 93 and one at 94.5 — Goodrum spoiled them both. Then Nicasio made what would be his fatal mistake.
On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, he threw Goodrum a slider at 86 mph. Goodrum fouled that off, too. But he saw what that pitch looked like out of his hand. It wouldn't take him by surprise.
So, after spoiling another 94.6-mph fastball, his eyes lit up when Nicasio tried to sneak another slider by him.
“I recognized it right away,” Goodrum said.
He ripped it between the first baseman and second baseman into right field. Jones flew around to third base and the Tigers would win the game three pitches later when Iglesias singled through a drawn-in infield.
“It’s a comfort thing,” Goodrum said. “You want to be in the box as long as possible. They tell you the longer you are in the box, the better it is for you the hitter. You start to see different things and what they’re trying to do to you. It was good to see that slider earlier in the at-bat.
“I mean, I wish I could have gotten one of those pitches a little earlier in the at-bat — but it all worked out.”
That it did.
Leonys Martin was back in the clubhouse Monday after spending the weekend back at home in Miami tending to his ailing father — and to his own ailing left hamstring.
“Everything is good, thank God,” he said. “Almost back to normal.”
He was talking about his father, who has been in the hospital. Martin, understandably, didn’t want to get into specifics.
“Now I can get ready and get back to playing,” he said. “It was a couple of tough days, but everything is good. Everything is under control right now. It was really tough, but I have a lot of family in the states and they helped me.
“He’s going to be OK. He is supposed to get out of the hospital in a few days. Now I can concentrate on what I’m doing here.”
Martin is due to come off the disabled list on Friday and he expects to be ready to return to the lineup. In seven games in May before he went down, Martin was hitting .367 with a .424 on-base percentage and slugging .600 with an OPS of 1.024.
“I’ll be OK,” he said. “It’s all right here in my mind. I just have to think about what I’d been doing and go out and try to do the same thing. I don’t worry about that. Just stay healthy. I’m going to be OK.”
Around the horn
Sixteen of the Tigers’ first 39 games this season were decided by one run and they were 8-8 in those 16 games. Only Tampa Bay (17) has played in more one-run games. The eight wins are tied with the Yankees for second-most behind the Red Sox, who have 11 one-run wins.
…John Hicks entered play Monday hitting .356 in the month of May — seventh in the American League among those with at least 45 at-bats — with three doubles, two home runs and seven RBIs.
…Right-hander Buck Farmer gave up five runs to the Pirates in his first outing of the season. Since, he’s allowed three earned runs in 18.1 innings with 19 strikeouts.
…The Tigers entered the game Monday having lost 11 straight to the Indians, dating back to last season.